Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Me and Frank

The prompt: inspiration from John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Pulphead Essays." My piece was drawn from Sullivan's essay on Axl Rose and Michael Jackson. I took the story of icon and where I found myself in his fame and his legacy. 

Naturally, I pick this guy. My favorite guy's guy. 

           The trumpets blare and the clarinets sing into key. And then – there he is. Taking over the song. The space. Even from the small area of each one of my headphones as I listen to him while I write.
            He’s there – taking over my heart again. With that voice. That voice that never makes a love song sound the same again to me.

            I was fifteen when I first found him. I think it was tape. As I pressed the play button he came a-booming over my stereo speakers. I turned the volume higher and I just kind of sat there. Entranced. As he bellowed his last note, I had yet to move. Still cross-legged between my bed and my closet, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And that’s what I fell in love with- the inability to believe that one man could sound so good.
            Now you have to understand that before this moment. On the carpet with the tape, I had toyed around with short trumpets and reckless drum beats of Ska. The teeter-totter of a man’s or woman’s voice that take you through a story of rebellion all the while the band kept playing. It was fun. I enjoyed it, but that’s as far as it went. I had yet to find an artist call my own. Until Frank, I was uncommitted. And bored.

            Listening to all of side A I remember hesitating to flip it over: side B.
            Could I handle it?
            Handle nearing the end of it?
            I had to.

            I know this all sounds a bit dramatic but what’s good ol’ blue eyes without the drama? Even with his happier tunes, there’s still the dramatic tinkle of the piano that makes you want to slow dance cheek-to-cheek and hold on tight. And perhaps this is just me - the fangirl with the heart for theatrics.

            Frank was a troubled man, fantastic crooner, and horrible lover. It’s all he ever needed before he stepped up to the mic, grabbed it by its neck, and snapped his fingers to whisk you away.  I’ve often heard that when it comes to writers, “writing happy” can be difficult. That is, if the writer is happy and content with his life, then the writing suffers. I believe this to be horseshit. But I wonder, does this saying circulate in the music world? Can a crooner sing happy?” Even as he swoons over his beloved in track number five, is there not echo of potential lost over the fact that the love is so good, her face so beautiful, and that it may all gone?
            The famous “The Way You Look Tonight,” by Sinatra, is a sweet song describing the love affair of a face, a demeanor that’s so lovely. However as you listen there’s something in Frank’s voice that leads you to feel that it’s just the moment. That it’s fleeting.
            It’s sad.

            To think of love and admiration as a fleeting notion whether that may be one day or ten years is a heavy thing - that whole journey to an end, to the loveliness, to the sweetness, to the ooo and the ahhh.

            Frank never kept love long. He tried four times: the first wife being the only mother of three. Rumor has it that he recorded the deeply melancholy “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” short after his divorce from the vivacious Ava Gardner. She broke him, it was whispered. When you listen to the track, the words melt in his mouth like he can’t control it: the ache. The man in the song speaks to his loyal bartender and says, “the torch that he’s found has gotta be drowned or it soon might explode.”
            I get it Frank.
            We all get burned -
            and you sing it so well. 


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